BOWLING GREEN - They come to cheer on their favorite make of truck. They come to marvel at the strength of a souped-up tractor.
But mostly, they come to hear the noise.
The 37th annual National Tractor Pull Championship erupts today at the Wood County Fairgrounds. About 60,000 spectators are expected at the weekend event that draws monster machines from across the country.
Bowling Green resident Bud Vollmar said his nephews began saving seats for friends and family in the grandstands while the Wood County Fair was going on two weeks earlier. The teens sat in the stands during the fair's final events so that as soon as the county fair officially came to a close, they could mark off seats for the tractor pull.
This week, Mr. Vollmar and his nephew Spencer Zikovich, 17, of Tontogany, were back out on the stands to put up a tarp to block their section of the bleachers from the sun.
“It's first come, first serve but when they're marked, people pretty much respect that,” said Mr. Vollmar, 47, who chose a section of seats near where the pullers come to the end of their runs. “This is the end of the track that gets the most action. It's the end that gets all the smoke and dust.”
On the infield, separated from the fans by large concrete blocks, John Deere will take on International in the tractor competitions while Ford, Dodge, and Chevy will have it out when trucks take the field.
It's a show of power and noise, explained Terry Andrye of the Northwestern Ohio Tractor Pullers, Inc., the show's promoters. It's the truest form of “tractors on steroids,” he said.
Organized each year by the 200 members of Northwestern Ohio Tractor Pullers, Inc., the event has grown and now includes an earlier start time today, giving those fans who traditionally have arrived early something to watch, said Terry Andrye, the group's media coordinator.
“It got its start back in the turn of the century with `My horse is stronger than your horse.' Naturally with the mechanical revolution that competitiveness shifted to tractors,” Mr. Andrye said. “Then with human nature, it kept going to now we see five engine vehicles, vehicles with jet engines in them, and even a vehicle with a helicopter engine.”
Denny Nye of Bloomdale has been coming to the tractor pull for the past 21 years. He, too, was working on his section of the bleachers this week, putting up poles to hang a tarp over sections where cushioned seats had been taped down.
“This is just a ritual that has been going on since it started,” he said. Mr. Nye said he had tarps in yellow, for John Deere, and red for International, the two types of tractors that compete. “We have to make amends with the International guys that sit under here with us,” the John Deere fan said.
Although most of the seats in the stands had been reserved for weeks, it wasn't until the last two days that aficionados from across the country and beyond began arriving to camp out.
Mr. Payne, an autoworker in Fingal, a small town in Ontario, Canada, said he's a regular at tractor pulls and hasn't missed the Bowling Green event since he learned about it from another enthusiast 12 years ago. The visit was 18-year-old Sara's first to what her father enthusiastically said was the best of the shows.
“This whole area is all packed solid,” Mr. Payne said of the campgrounds. “It's just a big party. They have everything.”